Coach Erickson Comments On The 2003 Football Signees

Feb. 5, 2003

CORVALLIS, Ore. - -

OREGON STATE HEAD FOOTBALL COACH DENNIS ERICKSON COMMENTS ON THE 2003 RECRUITING CLASS

'The first thing we need to talk about is how well our basketball team is playing right now. Standing in the back is the guy who's brought this thing around - Jay John. Jay, would you like to say anything about Thursday's game? I would, I think we're going to win two in a row. I can't wait to see what happens. I'm glad the pressure's on you and not me.'

Men's basketball head coach Jay John: 'I will give you credit for that boost of energy there.'

Erickson: 'But seriously, it's been fun. It's a different world now, and it's just great. Hopefully all our students will show up tomorrow and Sunday and get that gym packed like it should be and give us two big wins. '

'I'll talk about recruiting and then I'll get to questions. Like I've been saying for 30 years, to me, recruiting is about evaluation, it's about who you feel can fit into your program, how important football and academics are to the student-athlete, and how important being at Oregon State is to them. All of those things are factors.

'The biggest thing to me is that you always hear about losing this guy to USC or that guy to Arizona State, and it's obvious that we lost some players, there's no question about it. But to me, recruiting is all about who you sign, because they're the people who are going to play. It doesn't make any difference about players who went other places, it doesn't make any difference about the rankings, which are unbelievable. I think (Corvallis Gazette-Times reporter) Brooks (Hatch) put it in very good perspective the other day (in an article) because in our situation, we're going to look for guys who fit in and go from there. We're not going to go to Los Angeles and beat USC on recruiting players very often - that's just not going to happen. So we evaluate a lot of players, evaluate whether they can play in our program, and then recruit them. No doubt, we won some and lost some, but I'm very happy with the class.

'It's a class that is pretty versatile as far as positions are concerned. One junior college player is all that we signed, and that was by design. Kevin Davidson is an outside linebacker out of Northeast Mississippi Junior College. We really felt with losing Nick Barnett that we needed to get somebody to compete against some of the players we have here. What that tells me is that we're to a point right now that we have some depth in our program and we don't need immediate help. We have some young players in our program who have come up through it in the last couple years that we feel can come in and play for us right away. So we're excited about that, because we're now starting to develop some depth. So we're able to go out and recruit 21 high school players. To me, if you can bring them up through the program over a period of time, that's how you develop consistency, and that's how you win year-in and year-out. Hopefully, we're to that point. I'm not saying that next year we won't go out and recruit three or four junior college players. It depends on what your needs are and where you're at.

(Going through list of signees)

Quarterback

'At quarterback, of course, you talk about Ryan Gunderson out of Central Catholic who is an outstanding player. Danny Southwick was on a Mormon Mission, and is out of Provo, Utah. He signed with BYU out of high school, went on his mission, came back and called us. He was an outstanding player out of high school. He'll be in here this spring and will compete in spring football, which is a real plus.'

Tailback

'The tailback list is made up of guys that can play tailback and other positions, too. When we look at them, we're going to give them a shot at tailback - obviously Steve (Jackson) will be a junior, but to me, it's a great group of athletes.

'Bernard is a young guy that's very strong and has good speed - he's out of Boca Raton, Florida.

'Charles Burnley is a very highly recruited guy out of Valencia, California and was an outstanding high school player.

'Lorenzo Bursey is probably one of the fastest guys we're recruiting. He could play in the corner and could play in the slot for us.

'Clinton Polk, out of Phoenix, is a big guy - 6-foot-4, 200 pounds - and could be a great running back or could play other positions.

'That group is a very good group of athletes for us.'

Wide receiver

'At wide receiver, Brandon Powers is out of Franklin High School, and was the player of the year in that area.

'Phil Ghilarducci - and I can't have (coaches) Lappano or Mazzone or Cozzetto get mad at me, as again we continue with the Italian connection here - Gil-ar-doo-chee - and I can't mess that up. He's a receiver that we found late. He's from Gunn High School in the Palo Alto area. He's got good size. Gunn hasn't won a lot of football games, but his coach sent film to us and a bunch of other schools, and with about three weeks left in recruiting, we watched him and immediately offered him a scholarship. A lot of other schools came in on him, but people just didn't know about him, and we found out about him.'

Tight end

'Zach Hagemeister is out of Lebanon High School and Jeff Kruskamp is out of Milpitas High School, which is the same high school that Jaime Christian, our defensive line coach, went to. They're both very good athletes. Zach, to me, is an athlete who is an outstanding basketball player and can run fast. He can really make some things happen at tight end for us.'

Offensive line

'Roy Scheuning, out of Pendleton, who we recruited very hard is an outstanding player. Kyle DeVan, who we're going to play at center, is out of Vacaville, California, is one of the best heavyweight wrestlers in the country, not just the state. We feel very good about him.

'We've got a couple letters that aren't here yet, but will be here, so I can't talk about them right now.'

Defensive line

'The defensive front is something that we really emphasized.

'Naymon Frank is out of Honolulu, Hawaii. We recruited him early, and he can play end or tackle.

'Keith Robertson, to me, is one of the better players that we've recruited. He can play defensive end and can really run. He played defensive end and tight end at Lake Oswego High School.

'Curtis Coker is 6-foot-0 and about 290 pounds as a defensive tackle that is a very physical player.

'Jeff Van Orsow, out of Las Vegas, is a defensive end. We really felt that we had to emphasize that.'

Linebackers

'Kevin Davidson I talked about. Andy Darkins was the Defensive Player of the Year in the state of Oregon, and is one of the better high school football players I've seen in this state since I've been here. He's really going to have an outstanding career.'

Defensive backs

'In the secondary, you've got Anthony Wheat out of Dominguez High School, where Eric Manning is from.

'Harvey Whiten was very heavily recruited and he had an ACL earlier in the year. Some people went off him and we stayed with him. He's to the point where he's close to 100 percent. He's going to be an outstanding player.

'Justin Williams and Gerard Lawson are corners, and you always need corners. Gerard is out of Las Vegas and Justin is out of Los Banos, California. Both those guys can really run and are the type of cover corners that you really need.

'As I've said many times, when you look at us, or anybody, defensively, when you don't have guys that can cover, you've got problems. So any time you recruit, you might recruit five guys that are corners, and maybe move them to other positions, because you've got to have them. We bump and run, we do a lot of things and if you have corners, then you can do a lot of things in the front seven. We've been very fortunate with Dennis, Terrell, and Keith Heyward-Johnson and some of those guys over the last four years.

'Again, there are a couple players out there right now that we haven't received the national letters from, and they will probably be in tomorrow, from what I understand.

'The other thing about this class is that 10 out of the 21 that scored over 1,000 on the SAT test. We've got three that haven't qualified in this group.

'It's a good situation. I look at our last three classes, and they've really been excellent. I put this class with the one last year and the year before. Again, the proof of the pudding is when they get here and play, and that's what it's all about. The last thing I look at is recruiting analysis. Washington State and us are usually ninth or 10th in the Pac-10 when they analyze us. If I remember right, Washington State went to the Rose Bowl last year, so you just never know what's going to happen. But we're happy with the players that we have and it's going to be fun to mix them in with the rest of the group.

QUESTION AND ANSWER

(How important is it that you continue to get the top players in the state of Oregon?) 'I've mentioned this before, but how we evaluate and how other people evaluate is different. We may think a guy is a great player, someone else may not think that he fits into their program. There might be some players on the top-ranked team in the country that we probably wouldn't even offer scholarships to. So everybody evaluates differently. Our evaluation of the state of Oregon is different than some of the other people. We felt there were five players in the state that could play at the Pac-10 level, and we got all five of them. Again, that doesn't mean that Oregon even recruited them - I don't know that they even did. But we don't care who recruits him, we evaluate. To me it's very important that we get home-grown players if we feel that they can play here. If we don't feel they can play here, then we shouldn't recruit them. We're excited about the five we have from our state, they're kind of the heart of our team. That's what it's all about. Let's face it - people in this state like to see you win. They don't care who's playing as long as you win. But they also like to see players from this state playing as well, and that's important.'

(On the 'pipeline' from Las Vegas to OSU?) 'I believe this about Las Vegas: it's growing so fast, and it has the last 10 years probably, but since I've been here at least. There are high schools going up all the time. There are more players developing there than probably anyplace in the country. It's not a very heavily recruited place. So we went in there when we got Richard Siegler when we first came here, and have continued to recruit there, and it's not very heavily recruited. We were able to go in and develop a pretty good rapport with the coaches in that area and we're able to compete for the best players there. We ended up taking some again this year that we believe can help us. I have a lot of assistants that volunteer to recruit down there - I can't figure that one out. It's a hard trip.'

(With each class, are you getting closer to the kind of players you had at Miami?) 'Speed is the key. I've said from the day I stepped on this campus they were all my players, and that's how I feel and that's how it is. The players that were here when I got here played as well as the players we recruited. So to me, that's really not important. But you have a philosophy of what you want to do, and speed is our philosophy. I believe we're getting faster all the time, as far as our football team is concerned.'

(Do you look at Hagemeister, being a basketball player, as similar to current tight end Tim Euhus, who also played basketball?) 'There isn't a tight end on our roster that wasn't a good basketball player. You look at that position, and it's usually someone around 6-foot-5, 230 pounds that bangs away inside in basketball. If they don't play, it kind of bothers you, because good athletes play basketball, and all of them have been able to do that. Tim was able to come here and play early, but I don't even know if he could sit on the end of the bench now.'

(Which players did you covet the most?) 'Again, I don't even look at that, do be very honest. It's like anyplace you are, if you're in Georgia, the Georgia players are special. If you're in Miami, the Miami players are the ones that you covet. The guys from Oregon are special. Ryan... Keith has a chance to be a great player - Roy Schuening, an offensive lineman... I look at it as an overall class more than one individual person.'

(How do you rate this class among the other classes you've recruited?) 'Well, I'm supposed to say, 'by far the best', so by far the best. It's like all the other ones, they're very similar. Our first class had a lot of pretty good guys, too. Nick Barnett, Eric Manning, Terrell Roberts - they weren't bad players. You'll probably see a lot of those guys on Sundays. Richard Siegler isn't a bad player for us. So how do you know until they start playing. You really can't tell. We took Brandon Browner late last year.'

(Would you like to redshirt this class?) 'I'd like to redshirt the whole class if I could. We redshirted this last class, which is an awfully good class. I was going to mention Brandon Browner, because he was a person we took at the end last year, but he might be as good a prospect at corner that I've ever been around. We just take athletes - we don't worry about who's recruiting them or where they've visited. You just take them and fit them into what you're doing.'

(Will Davidson or Southwick be here this spring?) 'Davidson won't be here until the fall, but Southwick will be here this spring.'

(Do you have a nice group of quarterbacks now?) 'Obviously, Derek has experience. We've got Rothenfluh, Anton Clarkson, who's going to get better, and now with Ryan and Danny, it's a pretty darn good group.'

(How is it recruiting to this part of the country recruiting to Oregon State compared to other places you've recruited for?) 'It depends on what a person wants. If you want to come to Oregon State, you look at the academics, you look at the size of the campus - obviously it's a campus which college is all about. The town's not very big, and in the winter time, it rains occasionally. If you don't like any of the above, you probably shouldn't come to school here. When I was at Miami, if you liked the sun and humidity, come to Miami. So it depends on where you're at. And the great thing we have going right here is the cooperation we've got from the administration on campus, the professors on campus, the heads of departments on campus. It's amazing - that's what makes this special. They're helping us recruit and trying to get students here, and that's what separates Oregon State from a lot of other schools. It's very personable.'

(What kind of reception did you get on the recruiting trail after a bitter ending to the season, but at the same time were in the national spotlight and have been since the Fiesta Bowl?) 'That was nice of you to say 'maybe' a bitter ending - I consider it a bitter ending, personally, but thank you. It's been good. We've been here long enough and the coaches have been in different areas, and we always get a good reception everyplace we go. The players that are here, we haven't lost many in five years, so the high school coaches are very excited when we come in because their players have had good experiences here. So it's been real good.'

(How many of these recruits will have delayed enrollment?) 'Maybe two at the most, but it may not even be that. It varies depending on what happens.'

(Can you compare the playing styles of the two quarterbacks you signed?) 'Obviously, Ryan is bigger and has a great arm. Danny is a very good athlete and is very accurate, but so is Ryan. You have to go back and look at Southwick three years ago. Their both good players. Like I said, Ryan Gunderson is the first guy we wanted to sign. He has a great future here.'

(Do you look at him like you looked at Derek Anderson, and think, 'If we had to, he could play?') 'He could play probably. The thing with Ryan is that he's been in a tremendous high school system at Central Catholic. They spread you out and throw the football. They've done a nice job there. So mentally, he's probably prepared to play right now. But there is a change, things close. It's different from high school to here. The speed of the game quickens. People close on the ball faster. You go from college to the NFL and you're a quarterback, that sideline cut you threw against somebody in college and you throw it against somebody in the NFL, they're going to pick it and take it the distance. So the game just quickens up on you. That's the biggest thing.'

(How much do you look to Derek to offer some experience to these younger guys, since he's been through this?) 'Hopefully that's what this team is all about. Our older players talk to them about their experiences when they're coming up through the program. That's when you have a program, when you have leadership in the upper classmen and they take those young guys in and teach them how to play. They talk about some of the mistakes they've made. We have that leadership here, and when you can do that, you've got a chance.'

(Which position did you shore up the most?) 'With this group, I don't know. I don't know if any of these guys are going to play this year. They might. We lost corners, but when you look at who we've got coming back and the depth that we've been able to develop - I don't know, maybe some of them can play now. I'd be surprised if many of them played. It's not like three years ago when we had to play bunch of them when Steve was a freshman. There are a lot of things that can happen. It's not like we had a lot of junior college players we're going to bring in and play immediately either. I like Jonathan Pollard, I like Seth Lacey, I like Shamon Jamerson, Trent Bray, Brandon Browner - they're awfully good players. If those guys were in junior college right now, they'd be recruited by everybody. So we have some people there, and that makes a difference.'

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